Letter alleges unlawful hiring

Arundel officials say company employs illegal immigrants

July 26, 2008|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,Sun reporter

Anne Arundel County officials, who have threatened to cut ties with contractors that employ illegal immigrants, are looking into the possibility that the company that runs two county-owned golf courses is violating the policy.

In a letter yesterday to Billy Casper Golf LLC, which manages the Compass Pointe Golf Course in Pasadena and Eisenhower Golf Course in Crownsville, County Attorney Jonathan A. Hodgson said the county has information that creates "grave concern" that the Northern Virginia-based firm may be employing illegal immigrants at the Pasadena course. He advised that if the company is violating immigration law, its contract could be terminated.

Hodgson wrote that the two parties are scheduled to meet Friday with the aim that the management group will "produce documentation to demonstrate your company's compliance with county policy."

The investigation comes nearly a year after County Executive John R. Leopold issued an executive order requiring businesses hired by the county to sign a contract swearing they do not employ people living in the country illegally and allows the county to end relationships with contractors that do. But the county does not actively screen contractors for illegal immigrants' hiring and will take action only if such practices are brought to light. To date, the county has not severed any relationships with contractors the county does business with.

"We are currently reviewing the information we have from our contract with the management company, as well as gathering any information available from the company and authorities," Leopold said in a statement. "If it is found that the management company has in any way knowingly violated Executive Order 24, the county will exercise its right to terminate the contract with Billy Casper Golf LLC. I have been very clear that the County will not do business with companies that hire illegal immigrants."

Rich Katz, a senior vice president of Billy Casper Golf, issued a written statement saying the company's practice is to verify the employment eligibility of each person at the time of hire.

"We are conducting a thorough review of all I-9 forms and if warranted, we will take corrective and preventative measures," he wrote.

Acting on a tip, an Anne Arundel County police detective met Monday with the manager of the Pasadena golf course and requested information to confirm the immigration status of employees working there, according to the letter.

The letter alleged that after the meeting, and before the immigration information was obtained, "representatives of your company convened a meeting with company employees and informed them of this inquiry, at which time several of your employees immediately left the room."

Billy Casper Golf has managed Compass Pointe and Eisenhower, and has maintained a contract to manage the golf courses since 2005, predating the Leopold administration, said his spokeswoman, Audra Harrison. County officials said there were no allegations of wrongdoing at Eisenhower.

Erik Robey, deputy chief administrative officer for the county, characterized next week's meeting as a "fact-finding" exercise and said the investigation is "in its infancy."

"We're allowing Billy Casper to get their employment records and we'll sit down and discuss the allegations that have been brought against them," Robey said. "We're being proactive. The county executive has taken a strong stance against employers who employ workers who aren't legally allowed to work in this country."

Leopold has promoted his tough stance against illegal immigration, most recently in June, after county police participated in a federal raid on an Annapolis paint company that resulted in the arrest of 46 people who police believe are illegal immigrants.

County Councilman Josh Cohen, an Annapolis Democrat, said the county's action this week "sounds consistent" with Leopold's position on illegal immigration.

"It can be problematic when local government is put in the position of enforcing federal laws," he said. "But one area which the county government does have some control is its contracting. So this seems like a logical step for the county executive to take."

"One of my concerns is that actions like this can send shock waves through the immigrant community and raise a lot of fears among legal immigrants," Cohen added. "So I hope as the county immigration reviews this, it proceeds very carefully and with some sensitivity to the concerns of families who are here legally."

According to its Web site, Billy Casper was founded in 1989 and manages two sites owned by the Maryland Economic Development Corp. as well as golf courses across the United States, from Illinois to Alabama.


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